Booming Blacks sign Shute Shield sensation

Rugby union

THE Griffith Blacks have pulled off yet another enormous coup, securing the services of current Fiji international Dan Rawaqa from Shute Shield club Parramatta Two Blues.

In one of the biggest signings of the Southern Inland off-season, the 27-year-old fullback is due to arrive in Griffith imminently and could make his Blacks debut as early as this weekend at the Wagga knockout.

Heralded as a point-scoring machine for the Two Blues last year, Rawaqa - who is third on the all-time scorers list for the Pacific Nations Cup - has abandoned plans to play in Perth and will instead take a detour in the bush, reuniting with close friend, Blacks coach Seru Rogo.

Rawaqa is the latest in a parade of stunning signings from Griffith that have the club buzzing ahead of round one of the new SIRU season, against Tumut at the Coro Club on April 5.

"I am surprised at how many good players I'm getting. I'm really surprised," Rogo said.

"It's really good - it will help the boys in Griffith, just from their experiences and what they will do on and off the field.

"It's good not just for Griffith but the whole Southern Inland competition."

Rawaqa had a last minute change of heart about moving to Perth, so far away from his family in Fiji, and instead chose to move to Griffith when he learned Rogo was coaching the local side.

A job and a house was all he needed from the Blacks in exchange for his commitment.

"If players want to play for money, we can't really do anything," Rogo said.

"If they want to play and have fun and have a good time with their mates, we will definitely have that this year with the club.

"It's really good for us - Dan is a sharpshooter, a good kicker.

"I was actually thinking last week about who should kick for us in Leeton (on Saturday) and then he texted me."

Rawaqa will not be the only player with international experience in Griffith this year.

Former Fiji international Marika Vunibaka, 39, was signed back in February - but in contrast Rawaqa is in his prime and represented his country as recently as July 2011 against the All-Blacks.

Griffith has also signed highly-rated New Zealand utility Daniel Dawson, described as a "top-gun player" by president Clint Robertson.

Dawson last played premier-level rugby with Auckland club Otamatea Hawks and was said to be on the brink of playing ITM Cup until he chose to move to Australia.

In addition, the club has confirmed the return of Fijian-Chinese import Barry Wong, who was voted Griffith's best forward last year despite playing only in the second half of the season.

"We're starting to have a side that will be very competitive," Robertson said.

"There's a multitude of talent there and Seru's the man who has to sort it.

"Seru really helps bridge that gap between the different cultures in the group. He brings that together, he can talk to the Islanders in their own language.

"He's got everyone's trust. It's proving itself already.

"That's where he's doing a wonderful job. I can't speak highly enough of him."

Robertson said it was the strong club culture Rogo has helped to shape should see the squad stick together despite the inevitable big-money offers from Group 20 rugby league clubs.

"Every year we run into the same problem. There's not much we can offer aside from the love of the game and a brotherhood or family-type environment," he said.

"We're not allowed to pay money, it's in the rules. We're lucky a lot of our blokes knock them back."

ISLANDER INFLUX: The Griffith Blacks have signed Fiji international Dan Rawaqa, who spent last year in the Shute Shield with the Parramatta Two Blues.

ISLANDER INFLUX: The Griffith Blacks have signed Fiji international Dan Rawaqa, who spent last year in the Shute Shield with the Parramatta Two Blues.


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